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Spotlight Resource — The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation

United Way has partnered with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to accelerate our efforts to create results in education, income, and health. The Harwood Institute works with individuals, organizations, and communities to "turn outward"—listening to communities in a new way, connecting United Ways differently to grass-roots community members, building understanding and awareness of education issues, and (once strategies are developed with community involvement) involving more and more "real people" as part of a community-wide coalition for change. Harwood tools have been created and adapted for United Ways to use in education impact work.

Introduction to Community Conversations — The resources below on conducting community conversations offer practical suggestions to United Ways for recruiting participants, finding the right conversation leader, picking locations, asking questions, communicating learnings, determining how many conversations to hold, and more. Click the link above to go to the United Way's resource hub for Harwood tools, or explore the community engagement-specific ones below. Note: To use the Community Conversations tools below, users must be staff members of the United Way and must log in to access this information. If you are not a United Way staff member, reach out to your local United Way and ask them to share these materials with you.

  • Conducting Community Conversations — In this webinar from 2010, Rich Harwood from The Harwood Institute describes practical reasons for United Ways to focus more heavily on "turning outward", ways that the approach can be used with traditional partners (workplace employees, young leaders, major donors, etc.), and some of the pay-offs.
  • FAQ on Community Conversations on Education — This FAQ contains questions such as why is United Way engaging communities in conversation around education, and how can this help accelerate the local work I'm already doing?
  • Community Conversations Workbook — This is a complete guide to establishing, recruiting for, hosting, facilitating, and documenting community conversations.
  • Annotated Community Conversation Guide — This community conversation guide is broken down for a facilitator.

Ask about Aspirations
This Harwood Institute for Public Innovation tool is an easy-to-use quick set of four questions that have been tested in a variety of community engagement efforts over the years. It can be used to build relationships and learn from all kinds of stakeholders around a variety of issues, either one-on-one or in small groups.

Community Rhythms
The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation has identified five stages for community life. Each stage has its own set of challenges and opportunities. If you want to accelerate change in your community, you must first understand the 5 Stages of Community Life. This small group discussion guide helps you understand the stages of community life and the strategic implications for moving communities forward.


Additional Resources

Youth engagement resources

Leave Them Wanting More!: Engaging Youth in Afterschool (2015)
This Harvard Family Research Project report examines the role of afterschool in engaging youth, and it explains the importance of youth engagement for the development of strong relationships and learning potential. It discusses four main dimensions of engagement as follows: 1) cognitive engagement, 2) behavioral engagement, 3) social engagement, and 4) emotional engagement.


Parent engagement resources

Be a Learning Hero
Be A Learning Hero helps parents support their children by giving parents the resources and information necessary to navigate the changes happening in classrooms throughout the country. Click on the above link to access their main website, or check out some of these key tools below.

  • Learning Tools: These Learning Tools are developed by Be a Learning Hero's partners for parents to use to support their children's at-home learning Mathematics and English Language Arts learning. Parents can search by grade level, subject or specific type of resource.
  • Ready for the Test: Family Playbook: This Family Playbooks provides tips for parents to prepare themselves and their children for tests in English and math, including PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and LEAP.
  • The Super 5: These tools and tips help parents understand the learning goals and standards for their child's grade, their children's potential, how to support their child's teachers, and the impact of their children's character on academic success.

Q & A With S. Craig Watkins: Family Engagement in Connected Learning (2015)
In this Question & Answer session, Craig Watkins, a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Connected Learning Research Network, discusses what connected learning is and the importance of it, the role that families need to play in the connected learning model, and the impact of family equity on student learning.

Family Engagement: A Guide to Tools, Strategies and Resources (2014)
This resource from ExpandED Schools provides advice on ways to improve parent engagement in education. Much of the advice is applicable to Out-Of-School programs’ engagement of parents, as it includes parent engagement tips about the following topics: ways to enhance parental self-efficacy; methods to ensure parents know that their involvement is wanted; approaches to build high parental aspirations; and ways to celebrate improvement, achievement, and success.

Handbook on Family and Community Engagement (2010)
This handbook created by the Academic Development Institute and the Center on Innovation & Improvement is intended to provide educators, community leaders, and parents with a succinct survey of the best research and practice related to family and community engagement.

You For Youth: Family Engagement
This section of You For Youth's website has an abundance of resources on assessing and reflecting on your program's level of family engagement, planning and implementing practices to enhance family engagement, and developing training plans.


Community engagement resources

The Transition to Afterschool: One City’s Approach to Connecting Young Children and Their Families to Learning and Enrichment Opportunities (2014)
This video, part of the Harvard Family Research Project’s “Voice From the Field” series, highlights the type of coordination and communication that is necessary between afterschool program providers, school staff, and families, in order to have an effective learning environment. Meghan White, afterschool manager for the Division of Childcare and Family Support at the Department of Human Service Programs in Cambridge, describes an approach to effectively communicating with families to make a positive impact on children.

Building Supportive Relationships in Afterschool (2014)
This issue of SEDL Insights discusses ways that afterschool service providers can build and strengthen partnerships with key stakeholders. The main insights it explains include ways program leaders can: 1) encourage positive relationships between staff and students, 2) link to the school-day staff, 3) support and train program staff, 4) engage families, and 5) collaborate with community organizations.

Connecting Communities: Expanded Learning Through Out-of-School Time System Building (2012)
This report from the Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership can act as an example of how Out-of-School Time networks can connect OST programs with their communities to improve support and services for children. It highlights how Massachusetts approached creating these connections and why this work is so vital, in addition to profiling particular program examples that are successful.

Supporting the Education Pipeline: A Business Engagement Toolkit for Community-Based Organizations (2011)
This online toolkit, co-developed by United Way Worldwide, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Workforce Strategy Center, is designed to assist community leaders in creating beneficial and sustainable partnerships with businesses. It provides lessons on how community leaders can identify potential business partners, set realistic goals, and create partnerships for long-term success to ensure that all youth are ready for college, work and life.

Strengthening Partnerships and Building Public Will for Out-of-School Time Programs (2011)
Mayors and other municipal leaders must recognize Out-of-School Time programs as one important mechanism for supporting key educational goals, improving health and public safety, and supporting a future workforce. This guide provides insight into three key strategies that mayors and other city leaders can use to promote partnerships and build public will in support of OST programs, including ways to: 1) engage and involve a broad set of partners to take full advantage of all community resources, 2) keep OST on the public agenda, and 3) lead efforts by city, school and community leaders to establish a common set of outcomes and a shared vision for OST.

Building Systems-Level Partnerships (2009)
Based on a research review of systems-level partnerships, Child Trends created this brief to present the research findings and share effective strategies that OST programs can use to build systems-level partnerships.

The Community Café
The Community Café has a learning community on its website which acts as a sharing platform for resources and ideas around strengthening families in local communities. The website offers a variety of resources and tools, in addition to providing a platform for sharing programs' experiences, which OST programs could benefit from using.


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